Fewer than three months after a tornado roared the stable area at historic Churchill Downs, restoration and repair work on barns damaged by the storm’s winds is complete and horses are moving into those structures to prepare for competition during the track’s Oct. 30-Nov. 27 Fall Meet.
Churchill Downs had established a target date of Sept. 15 for the completion of the barn repairs, and crews from Louisville-based Hall Contracting accomplished that task. The project included major repairs on 6 ½ barns that were deemed uninhabitable by city safety officials following the storm that hit the track on the evening of Wednesday, June 22. Despite the major damage inflicted by the storm, no injuries to horses or humans were attributed to the tornado and the track missed only one day of racing in its aftermath.
National Weather Service officials in Louisville said the Churchill Downs tornado packed top winds of 105 miles-per-hour as it tore through the stables and significantly damaged a group of barns constructed in the 1940’s. The tornado was rated as an FI storm on the Fujita Scale, the official classification system for tornado damage.
The storm caused approximately $1 to $1.5 million in damage The structures impacted the most were Barns 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 40 and 5, as well as the stable area’s chapel.
“This is a very special day for Churchill Downs, our horsemen and all who felt the impact of the tornado that hit our track on an evening that five of those storms took Kentucky and Southern Indiana by surprise,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “We continue to consider the fact that no horses or humans were injured in the tornado to be miraculous, but the completion of repair work on our damaged barns during a very narrow window of time is also remarkable.
"A long list of partners headed by Louisville’s Hall Contracting, Luckett & Farley architects, our horsemen and our Churchill Downs team made major contributions to this effort and worked hard to make the goal of getting horses back into these barns by Sept. 15 a reality. We thank those partners and every individual, public agency, and the many community and church groups that reached out to offer help to our track and support the individuals impacted by the tornado in the hours after the storm and during the following weeks and months that led to this special day.”
Flanery also thanked the Louisville Metro Police Department, Louisville Fire Department, Louisville Gas & Electric (LG & E), the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and representatives of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau for their contributions to the recovery effort in the hours following the surprise storm.
The completion of the restoration and repairs of the tornado-damaged barns allows stables and horses to return to the track and resume normal training in preparation for Churchill Downs’ 21-day Fall Meet. The meet will be highlighted by the unprecedented eighth visit by the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to Louisville on Nov. 4-5 and the 137th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap (Grade I) on Friday, Nov. 25.